Romelu Lukaku features three times in the top 20 most expensive strikers but his most recent move doesn’t feature. Three centre-forwards who transferred this summer make the list…
1) Kylian Mbappe – £165.7m/€180m (Monaco to Paris Saint-Germain, July 2018)
How weird is it that PSG signed their all-time record goalscorer on loan six years ago? How funny is it that he’s basically more powerful than anyone else at the club, as well as the actual French president? How predictable is it that he’s spent much of the subsequent half-decade flirting with Real Madrid?
2) Cristiano Ronaldo – £99.2m/€112m (Real Madrid to Juventus, July 2018)
Entirely bored of being knocked out of the Champions League by Ronaldo, Juventus decided that if you can’t beat them then he must join you. And while the Portuguese added a couple of new league titles to his collection, he never could guide The Old Lady further than a European quarter-final.
3) Romelu Lukaku – £97.5m/€115m (Inter to Chelsea, August 2021)
Far from the teenaged Lukaku who rocked up at Stamford Bridge in 2011, the Belgian was far more experienced, well-rounded and refined, albeit just as apparently incompatible with Chelsea as ever.
4) Harry Kane – £100m/€115.8m (Tottenham to Bayern Munich, August 2023)
Daniel Levy did his level best to make things awkward but Bayern were determined enough to make the England captain their most expensive player ever that they put up with the nonsense and showed up with the cash. It could even be as much as £120m if add-ons are activated, which they surely will be with Kane let loose on the Bundesliga.
5) Cristiano Ronaldo – £80m/€94m (Man Utd to Real Madrid, June 2009)
Perhaps one of the greatest signings ever, considering Real somehow ultimately made a profit on their record goalscorer after nine phenomenally efficient years and 15 trophies.
6) Randal Kolo Muani – £76.4m/€90m (Eintracht Frankfurt to PSG, September 2023)
The France striker went on strike in the final days of the transfer window to force through a move to his hometown club. Eintracht eventually relented on deadline day, despite their struggles to source a replacement, but PSG had to pay a premium for the 24-year-old. The Parisians stumped up £64.2million up front with a further £12.2million due in potential add-ons.
7) Gonzalo Higuain – £75.6m/€90m (Napoli to Juventus, July 2016)
When Real exercised their buy-back clause on Alvaro Morata in summer 2016, Juventus hatched a foolproof plan to simply glance at the list of Serie A top scorers for the previous season and sign them. Bringing in Higuain came with the added bonus of weakening runners-up Napoli but he ultimately didn’t change an awful lot despite a solid personal record.
8) Romelu Lukaku – £75m/€84.7m (Everton to Man Utd, July 2017)
As a belated reward for retiring Sir Alex Ferguson with a perfect hat-trick, Lukaku was given another shot at the big time after impressing for Everton. Forty-two goals in 96 games is a decent return but neither party looks back on those two years fondly.
9) Romelu Lukaku – £74m/€80m (Man Utd to Inter, August 2019)
The most expensive footballer ever in cumulative fees has an awkwardly mutually unsatisfactory career path behind him, but the move to Inter went so well – 64 goals in 95 games and a Serie A title – that Lukaku and the skint Nerazzurri have desperately tried to engineer a permanent reunion ever since.
10) Victor Osimhen – £72m/€80m (Lille to Napoli, July 2020)
Napoli chairman Aurelio de Laurentiis officially confirmed an “investment of €70m euros plus another €10m bonuses” in the financial death grip of the coronavirus crisis, but one can safely assume 59 goals in 101 games and a Capocannoniere and league double have triggered add-ons Napoli have only been too happy to pay.
11) Luis Suarez – £64.9m, €82.3m (Liverpool to Barcelona, July 2014)
After sinking his teeth into Premier League defences with one of the great individual seasons for Liverpool in 2013/14, Suarez took a World Cup chunk out of Giorgio Chiellini just to test how much Barcelona wanted him. Still plenty, it turned out, and the Uruguayan repaid that faith with 13 trophies and a ranking of third in their all-time top scorers list.
12) Darwin Nunez – £64m/€75m (Benfica to Liverpool, June 2022)
Liverpool would presumably quite like Nunez to activate the clauses which would take the worth of his deal up to £85m, but it will take more than a 15-goal debut season to take him up to fourth on this list at £85m.
13) Rasmus Hojlund – £64m/€73.9m (Atalanta to Man Utd, August 2023)
The fee could rise another £8m with add-ons but Man Utd would be thrilled for those performance-related bonuses to be triggered at some point over the next six years by an inexperienced 20-year-old they are lumping an awful lot on.
14) Dusan Vlahovic – £62.8m/€75m (Fiorentina to Juventus, January 2022)
Once again spotting an Arsenal-linked striker excelling elsewhere in the league, Juventus put a whole load of money down on Vlahovic to be their Ronaldo replacement. That they would quite like rid of the Chelsea target 18 months on suggests how well that has gone.
15) Alexander Isak – £58m/€70m (Real Sociedad to Newcastle, August 2022)
Newcastle spent all of their first post-takeover summer transfer window trying to find an appropriate striker for their preordained journey to the top. Isak’s prior experience towards that end of the football food chain did not bring success with Borussia Dortmund, but some accomplished seasons with Real Sociedad prepared the Swede for a challenge he has embraced at St James’ Park.
16) Alvaro Morata – £58m/€65.5m (Real Madrid to Chelsea, July 2017)
There are far worse Premier League scoring records out there than 16 goals in 47 games, but Morata never seemed suited to the Our Game cut and thrust.
17) Zlatan Ibrahimovic – £57m/€66m (Inter to Barcelona, July 2009)
For a big old slab of money and a part-exchange which saw Samuel Eto’o head the other way, Pep Guardiola decided to give himself a headache for the entire 2009/10 season. Ibrahimovic scored 22 goals and won five trophies across 46 Barcelona games but no-one involved in the convoluted deal will consider it worth the hassle. To make matters worse, Eto’o won the Treble with Inter.
18) Diego Costa – £57m/€65m (Chelsea to Atletico Madrid, December 2017)
Proof that Chelsea used to be incredible at this transfer lark: they signed Liverpool target Diego Costa from Atletico for £32m in 2014 and built two title-winning teams around his 20-goal seasons, before Antonio Conte dumped the Spain international over text and theoretically torched his valuation by publicly ostracising him, yet Atletico – serving a transfer ban – bought the 29-year-old back for £25m more than they sold him despite Costa not having played for months. And in a miserable second Atleti spell, he scored 19 goals in 81 games, moving to Brazil for free before they won the title.
19) Edinson Cavani – £55.6m/€64m (Napoli to Paris Saint-Germain, July 2013)
“The transfer of Edinson Cavani is further proof of the club’s ability to attract the best players in the world. The player was seduced by the club’s sporting project,” added PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, and those tittering in the back can shush. Can’t complain after 200 goals and 21 trophies.
20) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – £55.5m/€63m (Borussia Dortmund to Arsenal, January 2018)
Arsene Wenger’s parting gift eventually became a millstone which prevented Mikel Arteta from overseeing his Arsenal process. Aubameyang won the Spaniard both the FA Cup and Community Shield in 2020, but the lavish new contract which followed soon seemed like a mistake on the part of a club which eventually released him for free before its expiration.